AMC Networks Tops Q1 Earnings Mark in Spite of ‘Walking Dead’ Ratings Declines

Spiraling Nielsen numbers for giant cable drama contribute to near-9 percent decline in advertising revenue at national networks

AMC Networks revealed better-than-expected first-quarter 2018 financials early Thursday morning, riding those Trump corporate tax cuts to a cushy earnings beat.

Wall Street had forecast Q1 earnings per share (EPS) of $2.19 on $720.51 million in revenue, according to a Yahoo Finance-compiled consensus. AMC actually earned $2.65 per share on $741 million in revenue.

Increased distribution at the national networks — AMC, WE tv, BBC America, IFC and SundanceTV — led revenue growth domestically. Those channels also combined for a bit of subscription growth, though U.S. ad sales dropped 8.8 percent on lower Nielsen ratings for long-running shows like “The Walking Dead.”

All told, AMC’s first-quarter net revenues rose 2.9 percent, with its net income clocking in at $157 million. That latter (and most-important) number represented a $21 million increase from the comparable first 90 days of 2017, a fact that can be partially attributed to the company’s stock repurchase program.

“AMC Networks delivered strong performance in the first quarter of 2018 with record total company revenues and earnings per share,” President and CEO Josh Sapan said in prepared remarks accompanying the financial release. “We have grown total distribution of our networks, reflecting the strength of our well-priced, well-defined brands; the quality of our programming and its popularity with viewers; and the value we create for both traditional and emerging distribution platforms. AMC Networks has the lowest priced offering of any independent programmer and is the most widely available independent programmer among virtual MVPDs, an indicator of our strong position as these emerging platforms continue to grow.”

“Our content continues to break through in a cluttered environment, with recent series including BBC America’s ‘Killing Eve,’ IFC’s ‘Brockmire,’ and AMC’s ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ and ‘The Terror’ drawing wide critical acclaim and strong viewership, and our streaming services, Sundance Now and Shudder, continue to gain traction with consumers,” he continued. “As we focus on delivering shareholder value in the near and long-term, we remain disciplined in our approach to content investments and managing costs while increasingly diversifying our revenue mix through content sales, franchise monetization and new distribution platforms.”

Shares of AMCX stock closed Wednesday at $53.13, up 35 cents apiece. The U.S. stock market’s regular day will begin at 9:30 a.m. ET today, though shares are already up about 3 percent in pre-market trading.

AMC Networks executives will host a conference call at 8:30 a.m. ET to discuss the quarter in greater detail. They should be in a good mood.